Firefox reaches 100 in a changed world for browsers

Firefox 100 arrives today but the browser no longer plays the role it once did.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Mozilla today is releasing version 100 of the Firefox browser, which began life as a worthy alternative to Internet Explorer in 2004 but today is overshadowed by Google Chrome. 

The latest release of Firefox arrives today for Windows, Mac and Linux on the desktop, as well as Android and iOS on mobile. 

On the desktop, Firefox 100 brings two main usability improvements. Picture-in-Picture (PiP), introduced in 2019, allows video to be displayed in a separate window that persists independently of the browser so that users can switch between tabs and still see a video while they're doing something else. 

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Firefox already supports multiple PiPs, and version 100 improves subtitles and captioning. Initially, subtitles and captions in PiP will be available on YouTube, Prime Video and Netflix, as well as Coursera online courses and Twitter, which support the WebVTT format. 

The Firefox 100 beta optimized the size of scrollbars on Linux and Windows 11. In effect, they're slimmer because scrollbars won't take space by default. Linux users can change the size in system settings via about:preferences.

Windows 11 users can configure the Firefox scrollbar in System Settings > Accessibility > Visual Effects > Always show scrollbars. Changing scrollbars just on Firefox, use the widget.windows.overlay-scrollbars.enabled preference from about:config. 

Mozilla says in a blogpost that the 100th milestone of the browser was a "big deal worthy of confetti, streamers and cake, and, of course, reflection."

Built on Mozilla's Gecko engine, Firefox 1.0 launched in 2004 as an open-source alternative to Microsoft's then-dominant proprietary Internet Explorer browser. It promised to block pop-up ads, integration with Google Search and other search services, tabs, add-ons, and more. Within a year, Firefox had been downloaded more than 100 million times

The Mozilla project's origins trace back to 1998 when Netscape open-sourced the code for Communicator 5.0 and made it available from the Mozilla.org website. Prior to Firefox, Mozilla released the Mozilla 1.0 browser in 2002. Later that year. it launched the Phoenix browser, which would later be renamed Firebird before finally landing on Firefox.

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Back in 2004, Microsoft execs claimed Firefox was not a threat to IE's dominance, but by 2011, Firefox had beaten IE in Europe, albeit with Chrome growing at a faster rate.    

Firefox desktop numbers in recent years have been falling. In 2019, it had about 250 million monthly active users (MAUs), but as of April Firefox had 207 million MAUs. In 2009, it had 23.75% of the global browser market, but today it's about 3%, and is even less widely used than Microsoft Edge, while Chrome has a 65% share, according to Global Stats Statcounter.  

But, after Microsoft announced its move to Chromium for Edge in 2018, Firefox became the last browser that isn't built on Chromium for Windows, Mac and Linux.  

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